Should the Padres Sign Ian Desmond?

Ian Desmond’s name keeps coming up in connection with the Padres. See here, here, and here.

And why not? It looks like a perfect match: he’s an established major league shortstop, and to boot, he has some power—both of which the Padres desperately need.

Here is what’s to like:

  • Desmond is regarded as a leader, and a good clubhouse guy;
  • he is durable, having played in at least 150 games in five of his six full seasons;
  • he has power, hitting 20 or more home runs in three seasons (and 19 last year);
  • he has speed, having stolen 20 bases for four consecutive seasons (2011-14);
  • he is a respectable hitter with a lifetime .264/.312/.424 triple-slash and 15.5 WAR.

But might there be a reason for the Padres’ hesitation? Before they go after him, here are a few things to consider:

  • Desmond is 30, and will probably require at least a four-year contract, if not five;
  • his defense is not the best: he has committed 51 errors over the last two seasons, and his dWAR in 2015 was -0.5—meaning, his defense alone actually cost his team half a game over the course of a season;
  • a closer examination of his hitting reveals some things a potential buyer should be concerned about: while Desmond’s overall numbers are solid, his triple-slash for the last two years alone is .244/.302/.407.

Desmond has also struck out a lot in his career, but those numbers have gone upwards: after a high of 145 in 2013, he has whiffed 183 and 187 in 2014 and 2015, respectively. And don’t forget last year’s numbers: .233/.290/.384, his overall WAR was 0.1, and his oWAR was 0.7.

In other words, he was basically a replacement level player; he didn’t hurt the Nationals, but he didn’t really help them, either.

So when you look at the numbers a little more closely, you can see why he remains unsigned over two months after Kansas City bested the Mets. General managers like A.J. Preller are rightly wondering, “But is he going to help my team get ahead?”

The Best Deals You Make…

One of the unwritten rules of being a general manager is this: the best deals are often the ones you don’t make.

Case in point with Pablo Sandoval. Last offseason, Preller was in hot pursuit of the husky third baseman, offering him over $100 million over six years. Of course, “Kung Fu Panda” signed with the Red Sox and proceeded to flop: .245/.292/.366, a paltry .658 OPS, and a -0.9 WAR.

He is still owed $75 million for the next four years, but thankfully for Preller and Padres fans, he is wearing a Red Sox uniform.

Just imagine if Preller had succeeded in signing Sandoval. He would now be trying to unload his contract in addition to James Shields’, Matt Kemp’s, Craig Kimbrel’s and Jedd Gyorko’s (the latter two since traded).

Which brings up back to Desmond. Sure, he might rebound in different surroundings. And a plan for the Padres might be to give him a four year contract—but not more than that, start him at short for the next two years (since he’s better than anyone they have right now anyway), and then, when young Javier Guerra is ready at some point in 2018, switch Desmond over to third base, where he can play for the last year or so.

But then, do the Padres really want to shell out up to $75 to watch him play so-so defense and strike out a lot?

Are Desmond and the Padres a perfect match? Well, let’s just say that at this point, it’s looking more like a temporary stop-gap…and a pricey one at that.

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